Colosseum ColosseumTouring Club Italiano
Originally known as the Flavian Amphitheater, this iconic building is better known around the world by another name. Located in Rome, it is visited by more than 6 million people every year.
Construction began in 72AD under the instruction of Emperor Vespian. It was finished in just ten years under the new leader, Titus. It stands 57 meters high, 188 meters long and 156 meters wide and at its peak could hold 50,000 spectators, more than many modern soccer stadiums!
The Colosseum Seen from the Southeast (c. 1700) by Gaspar van Wittel (called Vanvitelli)Harvard Art Museums
Crowds flocked to the amphitheater to watch exotic exhibitions of wild animals and the recreations of great battles. However, it is best known as the location of brutal gladiatorial fights and for the execution of prisoners. It was actively used for more than 500 years, with the last recorded games being held in the 6th century.
Since then, it has withstood more than 1,400 years of exposure to the elements, along with an earthquake, looting and even bombing during World War Two. Over the years it has been used as a storehouse, a church and even a cemetery.
In July 2007 it was named as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World.
As Festas Romanas do Coliseu (decade of 1900) by Pablo SalinasPinacoteca de São Paulo
The building was beautifully designed, with large open arcades and statue-filled arches on each of the first three floors. There were an impressive eighty entrances, each numbered, with tickets sold for individual seating blocks – much like today’s modern stadiums.
Speculum Romanae Magnificentiae: The Colosseum (1581) by Giovanni Ambrogio Brambilla|Claudio DuchettiThe Metropolitan Museum of Art
Inside, the three tiers of seats were filled with a cross section of Roman society. A wide marble terrace surrounded the arena, with the prestigious ring-side seats or boxes being where the Emperor and high ranking dignitaries would sit.
Above this, seats made of marble were split into different zones. Some were reserved for richer and middle-class citizens. Slaves and foreigners would be restricted to the wooden seats. Finally, standing room in the flat-roofed colonnade on the very top tier was reserved for women and the poor.
So, have you guessed it?
It is, of course, the Colosseum in Rome.
There is a theory that the Colosseum was occasionally filled with water for naval battle recreations. This has never been conclusively proven, but you can imagine it being a spectacular sight.
LIFE Photo Collection
The original name, Flavian Amphitheater, was changed due to the great statue of Nero that was located at the entrance called the The Colossus of Nero.
These days, the Colosseum is one of the most visited and recognizable buildings in the world. It boasts an incredible history, and we hope, an equally important future.
By David LeesLIFE Photo Collection